BRUSSELS (AP) - The European Union on Wednesday pitched a new plan for the bloc's citizens to battle global deforestation from home, offering assurances that a sip of coffee or bite of chocolate will not have come at the cost of trees.
Following up on deforestation commitments made at the recent COP26 climate meeting on global warming, the 27-nation EU is proposing that companies must ensure that products for sale in the market of 450 million people do not harm forests elsewhere.
"We must take the responsibility to act at home," EU Vice President Frans Timmermans said.
If approved by EU member states and the European Parliament, the Commission's proposal would force companies and producers to give assurances that products are "deforestation-free."
Deforestation in South America, Africa and Asia is driven mainly by agricultural expansion. The key commodities the EU is targeting are soy, beef, palm oil, wood, cocoa and coffee.
To compel company compliance, businesses would need to collect geographical coordinates from where the commodities were grown and make sure they did not impact deforestation. They would also need to perform due diligence to make sure everything meets EU standards.
The EU hopes that with the scheme it can save some 3.2 billion euros ($3.6 billion) annually in carbon emissions.
"Our deforestation regulation answers (the) citizens' call to minimize the European contribution to deforestation and to promote sustainable consumption," Timmermans said.
"It ensures that we only import these products if we can ascertain that they are deforestation-free and produced legally," he said.
At COP26, over 100 nations representing more than 85% of the world's forests pledged to halt and reverse deforestation by 2030. Among them were several countries with massive forests, including Brazil, China, Colombia, Congo, Indonesia, Russia and the United States.
Environmental groups cautiously welcomed the plan, even though they said the proposals still contained far too many loopholes.
"For the first time there is a glimmer of hope that the EU - one of the world's biggest markets - could curb its destructive impact on the world's forests," Greenpeace campaigner Sini Eräjää said .
"EU governments and the European Parliament must tighten up the law so people can be sure that what's in their shopping basket isn't linked to the destruction of nature," Eräjää added.
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